This is from 2014. In 2015 we will build a different toy package. More soon.

This is a step-by-step instruction on how to create your first R package. This will be much easier than you think.

In this tutorial we will develop a package gameday that provides the function gday(). This function takes one argument team.name, the name of your favorite NHL team, and returns TRUE if this team has a game today, and FALSE otherwise. The function will actually be a one-liner because we can read this information from the web.

### Prerequisites

We assume you have configured your system for R package development. This will ensure you have all the right software installed and that it’s updated. Ignoring this prep will only lead to heartache. Do it.

### Set up the directory = RStudio project = R package = Git repo

R expects a certain folder structure for your package. Luckily, the package devtools does this work for us.

library("devtools")
create("/path/to/your/package/gameday")

!! Replace /path/to/your/package/ with a path that exists on your computer !! Use RStudio’s auto-completion of paths to make this true by definition. To avoid nesting a Git repo within a Git repo, we recommend you NOT put this inside your STAT 545 repository.

This creates a folder gameday and populates it with a couple of files. Navigate to this folder and open gameday.Rproj with RStudio.

Before we talk about the files and folders that were created, let’s put this under version control: Tools > Version Control > Project Setup. Then choose Version control system: Git and initialize a new git repository for this project. Then restart RStudio in this Project.

Now, let’s talk about the contents of our gameday directory.

### Files that R expects in a package

• Helper files that we don’t have to worry about now:
• .gitignore The usual ignore file for Git. We don’t have to change it.
• .Rbuildignore An ignore file for the R package building process. We can talk about this later.
• .Rhistory The usual history file of your R session. We don’t have to change it.
• gameday.Rproj The usual file for an RStudio project. We don’t have to change it.
• NAMESPACE A very important file, but we will never edit this by hand. roxygen2 will maintain this for us.
• R/ finally, this is where the actual R code will go.
• DESCRIPTION holds meta information about your package. We will modify this first. (Technically, the presence of this very file signals to RStudio that the gameday Project is a package.)

### The DESCRIPTION File

Here is where we add information about the package (gameday) and its authors (us). Some fields are pre-filled, but many more fields can be added as necessary. The initial raw version may depend on your version of devtools but should look similar to this:

Package: gameday
Title: What the package does (one line)
Version: 0.1
Authors@R: "First last <first.last@example.com> [aut, cre]"
Description: What the package does (one paragraph)
Depends: R (>= 3.1.2)
LazyData: true

Let’s look at those in detail. Bold fields are mandatory:

• Package. The name of the package. We will leave this as gameday.
• Title. A one-line description of what the package does. Capitalize principal words, stick to a single line, don’t use markup and do not end in a period.
• Version. Convention has it that this should be in the format <major>.<minor>.<patch>. Since we are only in development we start a fourth digit, which, also by convention, starts with 9000. Hence 0.0.0.9000 is a good starting point, and 0.0.0.9001 would be the next (development) version while 0.1.0 or 1.0.0 would be the first release version.
• Authors@R. Machine-readable description of the authors (aut), maintainer (cre), contributors (ctb) and others (see ?person).
• Description. One paragraph of what the packages does. Lines of 80 characters or less. Indent subsequent lines with 4 spaces (if you’re lucky some of this formatting will be done automatically for you later, but don’t count on this).
• Depends. Lists the dependencies that are absolutely necessary to load the package. These will be installed when the package is installed with install.package("gameday", dependencies = TRUE). Packages listed here will also be attached whenever gameday is loaded with library("gameday"). You should probably only list some version of R here.
• Imports. Similar to Depends a package in Imports will also be installed when gameday is, but it won’t be attached. This means that your package can use the functions from the package, but you will need to call them via, e.g., package::function(). This should be your default way to depend on external packages.
• License. Who can use this package and for what? I suggest CC0, which means that we dedicate our package to the public domain and waive all of our rights. Anyone can freely use/adapt/modify/sell this work without our permission. We also don’t provide any warranties about liability or correctness. You can check out other licenses.
• LazyData. Is a little technical, but setting this to true makes your package a better citizen with respect to memory.
• There are many more fields available.

Hence, a reasonable version of DESCRIPTION after editing would be

Package: gameday
Title: Let R tell you if your NHL team plays today
Version: 0.0.0.9000
Authors@R: as.person(c(
"Jennifer Bryan <jenny@stat.ubc.ca> [aut]"
))
Description: Query live.nhle.com to check if your NHL team is listed on
the teams that play today
Depends: R (>= 3.1.2)
LazyData: true

### The actual R code

The R code that our package provides is in the R folder. So let’s create a new R script and save it in the R folder with the name gday.R.

The content is the following:

gday <- function(team = "canucks") {
url <- paste0("http://live.nhle.com/GameData/GCScoreboard/",
Sys.Date(), ".jsonp")
grepl(team, RCurl::getURL(url), ignore.case = TRUE)
}

We first construct the url where the data for today’s matches is stored and retrieve info from the web. We use grepl() on the result to check if team is among them. See what the data file looks like and compare with today’s matches on NHL.com. Notice that we use RCurl::getURL(), which means we need to add RCurl to Imports in DESCRIPTION, i.e. we add the line

Imports: RCurl

We don’t have to specify a version number for other packages, but we could if we wanted to. So far so good.

### Documenting the function

But what about documentation (what you would see with ?gday)? Luckily, roxygen2 helps us with that and allows us to add the documentation as comments directly in the R script. All we have to do is start the line with #' and use the \@ notation like so:

#' Is it Gameday?
#'
#' This function returns TRUE if your NHL team plays today
#' and FALSE otherwise
#'
#' You know then problem: You're in your office writing R code and
#' suddenly have the urge to check whether your NHL team has a game today.
#' Before you know it you just wasted 15 minutes browsing the lastest
#' news on your favorite hockey webpage.
#' Suffer no more! You can now ask R directly, without tempting yourself
#'
#' @param team
#' @return Logical. \code{TRUE} if \code{team} has a NHL game today,
#' \code{FALSE} otherwise
#' @keywords misc
#' @note case in \code{team} is ignored
#' @export
#' @examples
#' gday()
#' gday("Bruins")
gday <- function(team="canucks") {
url <- paste0("http://live.nhle.com/GameData/GCScoreboard/", Sys.Date(), ".jsonp")
grepl(team, RCurl::getURL(url), ignore.case=TRUE)
}

A few of those tags need explanation

• \@keywords must be taken from the list of R keywords
• \@export makes the function gday() available when the package is loaded, in contrast to a helper function that is only designed for internal use within the package.
• There are many more tags and explanations if you want to learn more.

### Let devtools, roxygen2 compile the documenation for you

Phew, that was a lot of work, but now we can hand the rest over back to R. In particular, devtools and roxygen2 will compile the documentation

library("devtools")
document()

When we run this the first time, the new folder man is created with the file gday.Rd. Go ahead an open it, this is what we would have had to write if it was not for roxygen2 (the syntax resembles the markup language LaTeX).

Also observe that we now have a file NAMESPACE which, as expected, says that the package gameday provides the function gday().

You can also generate documentation with RStudio via the Build menu or the Build tab or the keyboard shortcut given there.

### Build the package

As a final step, let’s build the package. In RStudio use the Build tab and choose Build & Reload. That’s it. Your package is now installed, your R session is restarted, and your package is loaded. You are now able to run

gday("canucks")
gday("flames")

and will notice that (on 2014-11-10) the Vancouver Canucks are not playing, but the Calgary Flames do have a game. To see the rendered version of our function documentation, use

?gday

As you update the package, frequently run document() and then Build & Reload to try out your latest version. As your package gets bigger, you will want to explore devtools::load_all() as a lighter weight alternative.

### What’s next

Congratulations, you just wrote your first R package! This is the end of part 1. In the second part we explore the following:

• Create help file for the gameday package, which is displayed by ?gameday.
• Publish gameday on GitHub.
• Add tests with testthat.
• Modify gday() to accept a second input date that defaults to Sys.Date().